Why Derrick Favors Is Finally Paying off for the Utah Jazz
In his fifth NBA season, Derrick Favors has started the year on pace for career numbers. While his team is still young, and while he still is inconsistent at times, Favors has started the year at a torrid rate, and could be finally starting to live up to his number-three overall draft status back in 2010.
Last season Favors moved to a starting role for the first time in his career, and he averaged a respectable 13.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per game in 73 games. Even though he is on pace to beat those numbers easily this season, they aren't without concern. His rebounding percentage (TRB%) and his per-36-minute rebounding numbers dropped last season when he went from reserve to starter, and they continue to drop this season. He has been asked to take on more of a load on offense, which could contribute to his loss in rebounding, but while growth is there in his offensive numbers from when he was on the bench, sometimes they aren't without downside.
Favors' jump shot has improved a lot since he first came into the league. He is on pace to raise his shooting percentage on shots 10 feet or more by several percentage points this season. However that does not come without a cost. With more of his attempts coming from more than three feet away from the basket, Favors free throw attempt rate (FTr) has taken a huge hit since he became a starter. This is a shame because not only has Favors still been solid from the floor, his free throw percentage is just under the 70% threshold. He is also shooting more free throws per game, but he could be shooting even more if he would stop settling for so many jumpers, where he is still shooting only 42% from 10-16 feet out.
It’s hard to imagine that Favors is only 23 years old because he has been in the league for five seasons already, but the trade that brought him to Utah is finally starting to pay off for the Jazz. This is a welcome site because, with one of the first-round picks they got from Brooklyn, the Jazz took Enes Kanter rather than Jonas Valanciunas or Nikola Vucevic. The other pick, through some draft-night trading turned into Trey Burke. Both of those guys are off to slower starts this year, so seeing Favors put up the numbers he has to this point must be reassuring to Jazz management.
However other than the drop in rebounding and the shot selection now as a starter, Favors is still shooting nearly 57% from the floor this season, and he is right outside of the top 30 players in the nERD rankings so far this season. He is ranked above Pau Gasoland Chris Bosh in the nERD rankings, and among players who have played at least 275 minutes this season, he is just outside of the top ten in true shooting percentage (TS%).
While he has put up a few marginal games earlier this season, Favors has been on fire over his last two games. He shot 9-of-11 from the floor against the Hawks, and last night against the Knicks he went 8-of-15. In both games, he scored 20-plus points, and what may be more impressive is he grabbed 12 boards and blocked 3 shots against the Knicks. He is becoming one of the better big men in the league, he is also putting up incredible fantasy numbers as well.
Not only has Favors efficiency been better this year, but also his extra contributions in steals, blocks, and free throws have improved his numberFire Fantasy rating as well. He is currently the 13th-best fantasy player according to our metrics, which represents a player’s total fantasy value based on contribution across categories and position scarcity. He is rated higher than Bosh, Serge Ibaka, Vucevic, and DeMarcus Cousins, and he is our fourth-rated power forward so far this season.
Favors has also been incredibly undervalued on daily sites. For instance on Fanduel, he has averaged over 30 fantasy points per game this season, which is just under LaMarcus Aldridge's average FP per game, and above Ibaka and Dirk Nowitzki. The only difference is those three guys are consistently priced well above Favors, even after his hot start to the season. On Friday night he put up 45 fantasy points, but here on a Saturday, he has nine power forwards priced above him on DraftKings.
He has already touched 50 fantasy points in a game this season against the Suns, were he scored 32 points and grabbed 9 boards. He also did not turn the ball over in that contest, which is an area of his game that is also incredibly undervalued. Among the eight power forwards who are averaging more points per game than Favors, only half of them have fewer turnovers than Favors. On a site like Fanduel, this is welcome because of the full point taken away per turnover.
The scariest part of Favors start to the season is that it seems like it could have been better. He has two games where he failed to score more than six points, and while the Jazz are going to be prone to the blowout every once in a while, using Favors in daily fantasy hoops is a great contrarian play in guaranteed prize pool tournaments. While he may be the ultimate boom or bust player in both fantasy and real life, he is the real deal. He may be putting up slightly inflated stats due to the team he plays on, but that is marginal compared to the statistical improvements he has been having this season.